Two Pastoral Letters of St. John Neumann On:
The Immaculate Conception of the Mother of God

From: "Historical Studies & Notes" of 'Social Justice Review'


Editorial Note:

To the best of my knowledge, these two Pastoral Letters of St. John Neumann, the only canonized American Bishop and "Light of the American Hierarchy", have not been reprinted since they first appeared in the 'Catholic Herald of Philadelphia', November 9, 1854 and May 3, 1855.

In our day when even a dissenter such as author Michael Novak has lamented that in the United States "Fidelity to the papacy has been gravely weakened. The concept of collegiality has been to supplant it. The authority has been used by some, not to complement the papacy, but to supplant it. The authority of the papacy is now extremely weak" (National Catholic Register 10/10/82), St John Neumann's teaching on the Divine Primacy and Prerogatives of the See of Rome will confirm loyal Catholics in their allegiance to the Vicar of Christ on earth.

The severe trials of the Church in the troubled reign of the Servant of God Pius IX, have been replaced by new trials and tribulations in the reign of John Paul II. But the words and example of St. John Neumann, Fourth Bishop of Philadelphia (1852-1860), remain to inspire today's Catholics with his love of Christ, devotion to the Mother of God, and fidelity to the Successor of Peter upon whom the Church Militant remains built as "upon the Rock" (Matt. 7-24).

Parents, especially, will note the Saint's advice concerning the education of their children in the Catholic faith. St. John Neumann's words are the words of a Pastor who did not abandon his sheep.


The 2nd Pastoral letter of our holy Bishop was written after St. John Neumann had been among the 53 Cardinals, 140 Bishops and more than 50,000 priests, religious and laity gathered together in St. Peter Basilica to hear Pope Pius IX solemnly define ex cathedra the ancient belief of the Catholic Church:

"We declare, pronounce and define that the doctrine which holds that the Blessed Virgin Mary in the first moment of her conception by the singular favor and privilege of Almighty God in view of the merits of Jesus Christ, the Savior of the human race, was preserved from all stain of original guilt, has been revealed by God and therefore must be firmly and constantly believed by all the faithful."

In a letter to a friend, St. John Neumann wrote: "I have neither the time nor ability to describe the solemnity. I thank the Lord God that among the many graces He his bestowed upon me, He has allowed me to see this day in Rome." (Fr. Michael J. Curley, C.SS.R., 'Bishop John Neumann: A Biography', page 239)

In this Second Pastoral, we again hear an American Saint's fervent sentiments concerning fidelity and obedience to the Chair of Peter and the wondrous role of Mary, the Mother of God in the economy of salvation. The writings of a Saint are always timely as revealing a more than human wisdom. St. John Nepomucen Neumann's reflections on the authority of the hierarchical Church, faith, the necessity of baptism, sin, the need for penance, and devotion to out Immaculate Lady convey unchanging truths which are more important for contemporary Catechesis of the faithful than ever.

James Likoudis
President emeritus, CUF


N.B. These two Pastoral Letters of St. John Neumann were re-printed anew for the first time since 1855 in the " Social Justice Review", issues of March-April 1985 and May-June 1985.

The "Social Justice Review" is the pioneer American Journal of Catholic Social Action and is the official organ of the Catholic Central Union of America (CCUA). Edited by Rev. John H. Miller, C.S.C., S.T.D., this highly recommended periodical is available for $20.00 annually by writing to:
Social Justice Review, 3835 Westminster Place, St. Louis, Mo. 63108.